Are virtual consultations both practical and safe?
The NHS’s new plan promises that ‘over the next five years, every patient will have the right to online digital GP consultations, and that redesigned hospital support will mean up to a third of outpatient appointments will be unnecessary, saving patients 30 million trips to hospital, and saving the health service over £1 billion a year in new expenditure.’
The amount of people using digital services for medical appointments is at its highest yet. Recent figures from NHS Digital show that almost a quarter of patients (14.3 million people) used GP online services to make appointments, view test results and order repeat prescriptions.
But clinicians – both GPs and hospital doctors – are currently untrained in the art of virtual consultations and many doctors have misgivings about making important clinical decisions about patients without the possibility of performing a physical examination. What are the medico-legal implications if an incorrect diagnosis is arrived at following an e-consultation and the patient suffers harm as a result? Online ‘digital’ consultations certainly have the potential to save money but how well will they work in practice and what retraining will be required?
What are your thoughts and experiences? Have digital consultations already made their presence felt in your practice? Let us have your views by adding a comment to this blog.